99.6 percent of new smartphones run Android or iOS

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The latest smartphone figures from Gartner are out, and they paint an extremely familiar picture. Between them, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. This duopoly has been the norm for a while now (in the second quarter of 2015 this figure was 96.8 percent), but it’s always impressive — and slightly terrifying — to see how Google and Apple continue to wring the last decimal point drops of market share from global smartphone users.

Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share.

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Bill Gates awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Outgoing President Barack Obama today names Bill Gates as one of the 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

The medal has previously been awarded to such luminaries as Mother Teresa and Stephen Hawking and was awarded for Bill Gates’s charitable work after he exited Microsoft in 2008. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, the mission is to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.

President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor – it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better.  From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

One of the founders of Microsoft in 1975, Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and chief software architect until 2006, when he transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  His last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008 and he stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in February 2014, taking on a new post as technology adviser to support newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella.

The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22th and livestreamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live. See the full list of recipients at Whitehouse.gov here.

AWS public cloud is twice as big as Microsoft, Google, IBM combined

Amazon-AWS-Leadership

Amazon Web Services is utterly dominating the competition, taking 45 percent of worldwide revenues for public cloud services, according to a new analysis.

Microsoft and Google might be increasing public cloud revenues faster than AWS, but they've also got a long way to go to come close to catching up, a new analysis from Synergy Research Group shows.

The combined revenues from Microsoft, Google, and IBM amount to less than 20 percent of worldwide infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, revenues in Q3 2016, compared with AWS's 45 percent, the research firm reports.

Alan Turing's computer-generated music gets restored after 65 years

alan_turing

Alan Turing is considered to be one of the fathers of computer science. He played a crucial role in World War II counter intelligence and worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.

He was also responsible for breaking a large number of Nazi ciphers, including the German Enigma code. After the war, Turing continued his work as a pioneer computer engineer, and developed what’s considered to be one of the first designs for a stored-program computer.

But it seems code breaking wasn’t Turing’s only talent.

Now the earliest known recording of computer-generated music, created more than 65 years ago, has been restored by the University of Canterbury. But the interesting thing is that it was created on computer programming techniques devised by Turing himself. 

Here's the story. In 1951, a BBC outside-broadcast unit in Manchester used a portable acetate disc cutter to capture three melodies played by a primeval computer. This gigantic computer filled much of the ground floor of pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing's Computing Machine Laboratory.

Now, decades later, director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing, Professor Jack Copeland, and his fellow researcher UC alumni and composer Jason Long, have restored the music. However, it has not been so easy. The researchers had to do some electronic sleuthing to recreate the historic sound accurately.

“Today all that remains of the recording session is a 12-inch single-sided acetate disc, cut by the BBC's technician while the computer played. The computer itself was scrapped long ago, so the archived recording is our only window on that historic soundscape,” said the researchers.

“What a disappointment it was, therefore, to discover that the frequencies in the recording were not accurate: the recording gave at best only a rough impression of how the computer sounded.”

They found that there was a deviation in the speed of the recording, probably as a result of the turntable in BBC's portable disc cutter rotating too fast. But, with some electronic detective work, it proved possible to restore the recording – with the result that the true sound of this ancestral computer can be heard once again, for the first time in more than half a century.

The computer music researchers were then able to calculate exactly how much the recording had to be speeded up in order to reproduce the original sound of the computer.

“As well as increasing the speed – and so altering the frequencies – we also filtered out extraneous noise from the recording; and using pitch-correction software we removed the effects of a troublesome wobble in the speed of the recording,” added the researchers.

“It was a beautiful moment when we first heard the true sound of Turing's computer.”

The complete 1951 recording, including God Save the King, nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep and Glenn Miller hit In The Mood, can be heard here over at the university’s website.

Apollo 11: do they accept pull requests?

Apollo11

The system responsible for the first moon landing is now readily available online, after an enterprising former NASA intern uploaded the Apollo Guidance Computer code to Github this week.

Although the code for the MIT-designed system has long been available to interested researchers, it's never been quite this at hand. Quartz has an excellent, thorough breakdown, but the jokes and asides are a special point of interest.

Reddit has already taken a look under the hood, and uncovered some of the best tidbits. For one, you'll find "BURN_BABY_BURN--MASTER_IGNITION_ROUTINE.agc" in there. In another spot, you can see a note about "TRASHY LITTLE SUBROUTINES."

One particularly poetic coder even included a bit of Shakespeare, although the reason for it is a little opaque now:

# THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION IS PROVIDED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS.

#

# "IT WILL BE PROVED TO THY FACE THAT THOU HAST MEN ABOUT THEE THAT

# USUALLY TALK OF A NOUN AND A VERB, AND SUCH ABOMINABLE WORDS AS NO

# CHRISTIAN EAR CAN ENDURE TO HEAR."

You can explore the code yourself here.

Continuous: C# and F# IDE for the iPad by Frank A. Krueger

continuous_app

Continuous gives you the power of a traditional desktop .NET IDE - full C# 6 and F# 4 language support with semantic highlighting and code completion - while also featuring live code execution so you don’t have to wait around for code to compile and run. Continuous works completely offline so you get super fast compiles and your code is secure.

Continuous gives you access to all of .NET’s standard library, F#’s core library, all of Xamarin’s iOS binding, and Xamarin.Forms. Access to all of these libraries means you won’t be constrained by Continuous - you can write code exactly as you’re used to.

Real Work, on the iPad

I love the iPad but was still stuck having to lug around my laptop if I ever wanted to do “real work”. Real work, in my world, means programming. There are indeed other IDEs for the iPad: there is the powerful Pythonista app and the brilliant Codea app. But neither of those apps was able to help me in my job: writing iOS apps in C# and F#. I couldn’t use my favorite languages on my favorite device and that unfortunately relegated my iPad to a play thing.

Well it took me a bit of time, but I finally have it: a .NET IDE on the iPad (and phone too!).

But it’s not “just an IDE”. I didn’t want it to simply be sufficient - I wanted it to be great. I also thought it was a nice time to push the state of the art in .NET IDEs a tad.

For ages compiled languages like C# and F# have forced a sequential development loop on programmers: the Code-Compile-Run-Test loop. We code something up, wait for it to compile, then wait for it to deploy and run, then we get to test it.

I hate waiting for compilation and deployment so I designed Continuous to minimize those steps. It does this by eagerly compiling your code - never waiting for you to tell it when to start. It runs your code as soon as those compiles complete successfully and displays the results of that execution right next to your code. Now you can focus on the code and the results of that code instead of being distracted by all the silly machinery of a compiler and IDE.

The benefits of making compilation and execution fast have surprised me. My iPad has become my favorite place to write apps now.

  • The UI is visualized right next to the code that is building it.
  • I am no longer constrained by designers with their static view of the world - the UI objects in Continuous are live and interactive.
  • I can use real code files but still visualize objects out of them as if they were scripts.
  • I can focus on building one screen of my app at a time and see the results without having to navigate from the first screen to see the screen I’m working on over and over.

I could argue that I’m a more efficient programmer thanks to these changes. Perhaps I am more productive. But the truth is, I’m just happier using Continuous. I play with GUIs more now, trying new ideas and tweaking things left and right. It’s quite liberating and plain old fun to get nearly instant feedback on your work.

I hope you find these features as exciting as I do. Please visit the website if you want more details on them, or throw caution to the wind and buy Continuous on the App Store now to see them first-hand.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Continuous wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for .NET’s great open source ecosystem. Continuous uses Roslyn for compiling C# and FSharp.Compiler.Service for compiling F#. Continuous also relies heavily on Cecil (what problem can’t be solved with Cecil?) Also, Xamarin.Forms could only be included thanks to Xamarin open sourcing it.

And of course, none of this would be possible without mono and Xamarin.

Colophon

I wrote Continuous in F# using Xamarin Studio. The code is more functional than object oriented and uses a redux style architecture. I don’t think I could have built such a large app with its sophisticated requirements without F# at my side. Three years ago I wasn’t sure how to write GUI apps in a functional language, now I question why I haven’t always done things this way.

Internet Access Is Now A Basic Human Right

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People may joke that others spend too much time on the internet, but this intricate series of tubes has become an important part of everyday life—so much so that it’s become a human rights violation to take it away.

That’s according to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which passed a non-binding resolution in June that condemns countries that intentionally take away or disrupt its citizens’ internet access.

The resolution was passed last Friday, but was opposed by countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and India. The issue was with the passage that “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our dissemination of information online.”More than 70 states supported the resolutions, according to a statement released by Article 19, a British organization that works to promote freedom of expression and information. Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, wrote:

“We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia, and India voted in favour of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online...A human rights based approach to providing and expanding Internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down.”

The resolution notes what many of us already know: It’s important to increase access to the internet, as it “facilitates vast opportunities for affordable and inclusive education globally,” or provides other resources for education, especially across the digital divide. In accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the organization also recognized that the spread of technology has the “great potential to accelerate human progress.”

It’s all here: your news organizations, your job-hunting resources, and your credit card statements. It’s become impossible to live without basic internet access.

Other countries have already stressed the importance of open access, including President Barack Obama, who in 2015 said that “today, high speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

The resolution also highlights a number of issues that need to be addressed, including that the issue of freedom of expression on the internet. Also among the points presented were statements:

  • Calling upon all states to address security concerns in “a way that ensures freedom and security on the Internet,”
  • Ensuring accountability for all human rights violations and abuses committed against persons for exercising their human rights,
  • Recognizing that privacy online is important,
  • Stressing the importance of education for women and girls in relevant technology fields.

The UN can’t enforce resolutions legally. Rather, they’re issued to provide guidelines for participating nations and to put pressure on any that may have dissenting views. These are just general statements on how governments should shape laws when it comes to the internet. It’s nice to see, even if it does little beyond filling a few pieces of digital paper.

The next step is for those countries to start actively addressing problems, including laws pertaining to freedom of expression and how those rights can be abused to spread violence, terrorist ideals, and harassment. The more we discuss the problems that come along with the free reign of the internet, the closer we’ll get to Valhalla (or so I’ve heard).

Docker opens up Docker for Windows beta to everyone

DockerHomePage

Programmers and developers have been anxiously waiting for an invite into the Docker application beta since earlier this year. During their announcement video, Docker shared that they had over 30,000 interested parties sign up within hours of the initial announcement. A grand total of 70,000 were able to join the beta to provide feedback and get a hands-on experience with the application. But for those that haven’t gotten in, today they can do so with the open beta announced for Docker on Mac and Windows.

The Docker platform is one of the most versatile means for developers and IT to create and test their application software through multiple devices. Docker boasts that the Windows application will provide better performance and reliability as well as advanced options to change CPU, Memory Usage, and many more tweaks to improve development.

With Docker on Windows, users can expect the same experience they’ve had before with enhancements, including deeper integration of running Docker and native virtualization for the Windows platform. The in-container development makes it possible to auto-update the software within the platform–just a save and refresh after, and the application reflects changes made to the coding without any hassle.

The polyglot environment is a major feature for teams, developers, and organizations that use multiple coding on their projects. Mounted volumes will notify the document when it’s changed. Developers are now able to build applications on a Windows machine without the need to add more frameworks. For example, when a developer writes in Java coding, the application will recognize it as Java coding. The same will occur with other supported languages.

The Docker application for Windows will provide better networking than before with built-in DNS servers and easy use over VPN. It will run with Native Hypervisor Support meaning that minimum specifications require a Windows 10 Pro machine with the latest Hyper-V updates. So what are you waiting for? The Docker public beta can be downloaded from their official website.

Electron 1.0

For the last two years, Electron has helped developers build cross platform desktop apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Now we’re excited to share a major milestone for our framework and for the community that created it. The release of Electron 1.0 is now available from electron.atom.io.

electron

Electron 1.0 represents a major milestone in API stability and maturity. This release allows you to build apps that act and feel truly native on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Building Electron apps is easier than ever with new docs, new tools, and a new app to walk you through the Electron APIs.

If you’re ready to build your very first Electron app, here’s a quick start guide to help you get started.

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